NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Justin Fabus

Justin Fabus

For this week’s Swag Spotlight we take you to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Justin Fabus grew up and still resides.  In our recent phone conversation the singer-songwriter talks highly of his hometown, explaining how he hates the stereotype that just because he didn’t grow up in the south, that means he can’t sing country music.  “Country music is about the songwriting, it’s about blue-collar people, hard-working people, and Pittsburgh with their steel factories, being a Steel Town, it doesn’t get much more blue-collar than Pittsburgh.  It goes hand and hand perfectly,” he tells us.

With a grandfather who indulged in the rat pack, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and his grandmother always listening to Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, Fabus was introduced to a wide range of music from an early age.  His mother would always play Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen and as he got older, he loved the sound of the Motown Era and of course 90’s country like Diamond Rio and Restless Heart.  All of these influences are evident in the music that he now calls his own.

In the 8th grade, Fabus took the stage for the very first time for a talent show. “I sang a Boyz II Men song and to have the feel of the crowd, it was something I had never experienced and I was addicted to it and then it just grew from there,” he recalls.  Since his middle school talent show days, Fabus now has had the opportunity to play CMAFest in Nashville three times and open for superstars like Gary Allan, Randy Houser, Craig Campbell and Kip Moore.  He is so grateful to those opening slots and to the artists who opened their arms to him and took him under their wing.

He currently still resides in Pittsburgh but travels to Nashville often, bouncing back and forth between both cities.  His reasoning on not moving to Music City full time is “I would rather have a huge following in my hometown and the surrounding areas first and have a strong fan base before I dive into Nashville. I would rather be invited into Nashville than just show up and say here I am.”

His new album titled Remedy was released earlier this summer and is a clear summation of all of the influences he has listened to in his lifetime.  “I’m not a big fan of the word genre, I think if it’s good music and it makes you move and makes you feel good, then that’s all that matters,” he says of the musical term. “I hate the ‘Oh it’s too country, it’s not country enough’ statement, if it’s good music it’s good music. Music is evolving and changing every day and the whole word ‘genre’ is terrible.  Why pigeon hole yourself, just because you like country music doesn’t mean you can’t like hip hop or rap or R&B, so I have been trying to break down those barriers my whole career.”

Fabus co-wrote or solo wrote all 13 tracks on the album, taking the initiative to make his debut album exactly how he wanted it. “You only get one first album in your career and I wanted it to be one of those albums that you listen to it front to back where it takes you on a journey,” he says of Remedy. Working with some great songwriters such as Joe Henry, who was John Denver’s songwriting partner who wrote the song “Skin” for Rascal Flatts as well, as Dave Pahanish who has written songs for Keith Urban and Toby Keith.  Being a huge fan of Billy Joel, he also had Carl Fisher, Joel’s trumpet player add his talents to the record. “I’ve been so blessed to do what I do and on top of it have these amazing songwriters and artists collaborate with me, it’s unbelievable.”

Currently out on The Remedy Tour, with over thirty dates spanning the country, Fabus takes what he loves about Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen’s live shows to heart, understanding that spending your hard earned money on a concert is a privilege these artists get to experience with their fans, so he always gives all he’s got when on stage.

For tour dates and ticket info head to justinfabus.com/tour and be sure to follow along on his social media channels,  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Matt Stell

Matt Stell
Matt Stell, our Swag Spotlight for the week was born in Central Arkansas and now lives in Nashville.  His passion is writing and performing, but it wasn’t always the obvious choice for his career path. After moving to Nashville and trying his hand at being a professional songwriter and artist, he had taken a medical missions trip to Haiti and saw how the doctors and nurses were able to change people’s lives drastically. After returning home, Stell decided to turn down a pre-medical program acceptance at Harvard Law to stay in Nashville and change people’s lives with his music.  We discussed how that trip changed his life in so many ways. “Well, you can’t go there without having that place have a profound effect on your life,” Stell says.  “It took only a few hours to get there and it may as well have been on a different planet.”  He came home with a serious gratitude for the way we are able to live and for the ability to make a living doing what he loves.
Stell recalls listening to traditional country music with his Granddad growing up, like Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubbs while his mother was a big fan of Allison Krauss and Bonnie Raitt. “My generation has access to music in a different way than generations before us, so I’ve always had an affinity for all different kinds of music, for rock music, rap music, you name it,” he tells us. He brings those influences into his music today.
The latest project Stell released back in March is a six-song EP titled The Last of the Best and he either co-wrote or wrote by himself each of the tracks on the project. “I enjoy the writing, I get to do it every day. I love playing and writing music and I don’t know which one I love more,” he says. When picking songs for the album, Stell explains he is so glad to have a team around him who understands his goals for his music. “We keep the live show in mind quite a bit, I wanted to make sure that if someone heard the EP, they would want to come to see me perform those songs live.”

The debut single from the EP, “Prayed For You” has already garnered over 2 million streams on Spotify and the video which features reality star Savannah Chrisley has almost 200k views on YouTube. The love song about perseverance and holding out for a real love has resonated with fans and Stell is so proud of it. He has had people reach out and tell him what the song has meant to them, people are dancing to it at their weddings and finding solace in the pay off of waiting for the real thing.
On the schedule, Stell has shows coming up all over the country for the remainder of the year. Make sure to follow his continued journey on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Mike Ryan

NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Mike Ryan

Mike Ryan

Mike Ryan, San Antonio, Texas native is our Swag Spotlight this week.  You may have heard his incredible song “New Hometown” on Spotify where it has over 7 million spins but what you didn’t know about the Texas singer is he is a co-writer on one of Brad Paisley’s newest smash hits “Last Time For Everything”. We learned about where Ryan grew up during our recent chat with the singer-songwriter.

Ryan learned to play the piano from a young age as well as singing in the church choir but during his high school years he learned to play guitar and started to really get interested in singing as well.  “When I went to college I started writing, playing open mic nights and I put a band together. Sometime during college I started realizing this is what I wanted to do for a career,” Ryan explains.  His grandfather was a band director for the Texas National Guard and his father was also a performer in different theater productions. He recalls loving watching his father on stage.

His musical influences growing up range anywhere from Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John to Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and George Strait.  Although his parents mostly listened to classic rock when he was young, he discovered country music during the 90’s and he feels that all of the music he listened to comes out in his songwriting today. He currently resides both in Nashville and Texas, splitting his time between those two homes and being on the road promoting his new music.  His latest EP, Blink You’ll Miss It, was released late last year and debuted at #6 on the iTunes charts, Ryan being a co-writer on five of the seven songs.

As a writer for Seagayle Music, just like last week’s Swag Spotlight CJ Solar, Ryan sat down with Smith Ahnquist, Brent Anderson, Chris DuBois and started writing “Last Time For Everything”.  They did not complete the song in that one session, but the other writers brought the concept up the next day in a write with Brad Paisley. Ryan had left to join his band for a gig but got a call just a few short days later that Paisley had loved the song and the finished writing it together and right away he recorded it for his next album, Love and War.  It was Ryan’s first outside cut and Paisley ended picking the nostalgic song as one of the singles from the record.

Paisley also brings his remarkable talent to Ryan’s current single “The Rewrite”, “He went ahead and burned down an incredible solo that I will never be able to duplicate live but it’s so cool that we have it on the record and so I am forever in debt to him,” he says.  “It was one of the coolest things, just to have him play on a record of mine, it’s like a thumbs up from him, it’s a solid vote of confidence from a guy I’ve always looked up to and always been a fan of.”  Take a listen to the song and the guitar solo in the above video.
This summer and into the fall season, Ryan is heading out to play gigs throughout Texas and eventually make his way across the country. “We’ve got some new music coming out, I’ve been writing a bunch and we are starting to play those songs out live, that’s the first place I try new music, I love to see the response from fans out on the road,” he explains.  For full tour dates head to www.mikeryanband.com and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight: CJ Solar

CJ Solar

 

Baton Rouge, Louisana native CJ Solar is partly responsible for your obsession with Morgan Wallen‘s summer jam “Up Down”, writing that song over three years ago with Michael Hardy and Brad Clawson.  We caught up with the singer-songwriter recently about growing up in a musical family and his career leading up to his very first number one hit.

Solar started playing the guitar when he was eight years old, and his younger brothers followed in his footsteps, learning drums and bass.  They all grew up listening to the music that their parents loved, southern rock.  He recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd being the first songs that they learned to play and really falling in love with those classic hits.  Going on a family vacation to Nashville when he was still in middle school, Solar remembers catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry and three of the performers were Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Dierks Bentley (back when Blake and Dierks still had mullets, he laughed). Watching Paisley shred on the guitar was an eye-opening experience for the young musician, and he quickly changed his thoughts about what country music was.  “Before that, I only knew country music to be sad songs about your dog dying, that’s what I pictured country music as, but when I got up there I saw these guys really rocking and Brad was shredding, I really saw the new kind of country music,” he explains.

All throughout high school he started learning about songwriting, and made his way to Nashville for college, attending Belmont University to get a degree in songwriting with a minor in music business.  He had the opportunity to intern at SeaGayle Music during his last semester and after showing them his original music, they signed him to a publishing deal before he even graduated college.  Fast forward almost 5 years, Solar has been one of their writers and pumping out songs for artists like Jerrod Niemann and Mike Ryan as well as releasing two EPs filled with a blend of southern rock and country music.

CJ Solar

Most recently, Solar had the opportunity to open for one of his all-time favorite bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd. He explains it was a dream come true and playing for those venues, packed with at least 20 thousand people each night was like magic, especially since their fans weren’t the typical country music fans he usually encounters. “A lot aren’t country music fans but they are music fans in general,” he says “People of all ages, it was great to see so many young fans come out too, then to see a surge in followers on social media, it takes a lot for them to look me up, follow me and comment how much they enjoyed my set,” he says.

When he writes, he blends the country lyric with a southern rock flair and says he is inspired by his influences and the music he loved growing up for that. His latest EP Get Away With It had its first single, “Airplane” hit number 15 on the Music Row charts, the highest an independent artist has charted within the last year.  He looks forward to releasing the next single from the project “American Girls” and take his own music to the next level.  Most recently, he enjoyed success with his very first number one cut, “Up Down” which was written with Michael Hardy and Brad Clawson and recorded by Morgan Wallen featuring Florida Georgia Line.  The single shot up the charts and currently has over 47 million streams on Spotify.  “Kudos to the whole Big Loud team, they fought for the number one because Blake [Shelton] was also going for number 1 that week. It’s a huge accomplishment and a testament to how hard they worked,” he tells us.

It’s pretty remarkable to think that while he was in middle school he attended a show at the Grand Ole Opry that changed his life forever, watching Blake Shelton on that coveted stage turned him on to country music and now a song he wrote was competing with one of Shelton’s songs for the top spot. “It’s so cool to play “Up Down” at our shows and it helps turn people on to the rest of my music, it’s really a blessing and I can’t believe it happened,” he humbling says.

For tour announcements and to keep up with CJ Solar be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Tristan Jackson

NYCS Swag Spotlight: Tristan Jackson

Tristan Jackson

Tristan Jackson has taken winding rounds to end up where he is now, living in Nashville and pursuing a solo career in music.  Growing up, he and his mother moved around a lot but he tends to call Branson his hometown.  Eventually, Jackson made his way to Los Angeles where he focused on his film and music career simultaneously.  “I was trying to utilize acting to pay for music, landing a small part seemed to be easy, I had a better opportunity getting acting gigs, so I could then put that towards my musical endeavors,” he explains in a recent phone interview.

Growing up in the Midwest, he grew up listening to traditional country music, explaining that his late grandfather was a real cowboy. “My idol is my grandfather, he is a true country guy, a cattle rancher, he played country guitar, he taught me my word is my bond and integrity, he is my hero,” he thoughtfully expresses.  While country remained in his blood, he started a band and was the lead vocalist for The Cavalry in which incorporated his favorite types of music, southern rock, pop, R&B, and country. “I ended up in Nashville and I had the opportunity to write with and work with Nashville writers and artists, I had such a profound respect for Nashville.” he tells us “I started cultivating a new genre that I coined “Nashville Rock” which is a hybrid of pop-rock, country and where the new country style is going but at the same time trying to stay true to my roots to country music in rhythm and blues.”

Now focusing his energy on writing in Nashville he is venturing out on his own as a solo artist.  His first single “Wake Up Call” definitely still has an underlying southern rock vibe but with the addition of Jackson’s fiance, Kirstie Lane, the lyric and delivery allow the country fans to really dive in.  Throughout our conversation Jackson discusses artists from all different genres including Taylor Swift, Post Malone and even Jared Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars, explaining how they have each influenced him and how he doesn’t want to put himself into a box of a genre.  “I love that artists are branching out in different directions now, they aren’t doing it for the money they are doing it because they love certain types of music.  I love adding different elements to my music,” he tells us.  “When I leave this world I want to make sure I leave it the way I want to, as far as my music goes, I want my kids to say ‘That was my dad’.”  Relating genres back to movies, something Jackson is familar with since spending nine years in LA, he talks about why people feel they have to pick a favorite genre of music or why artists must define themselves in that way.  “Actors pick different roles all of the time, people decide to watch a comedy one day and a drama the next, I don’t believe in genres.”

“If you work hard for it, anything is possible, that’s the mindset I try to stay in,” he says of committing to his dreams and pursuing his career.  His debut EP is slated for release later this Fall and he looks forward to sharing his journey through his music.  Listen to his latest single “When the Radio’s Gone” below and follow Tristan Jackson on his social media channels (Instagram, Twitter,  and Facebook,) to keep up with his album release date.

 

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Brandon Stansell

NYCS Swag Spotlight: Brandon Stansell

Brandon Stansell

For Brandon Stansell, his love of country music collides with his passion for advocacy for the LGBT community, being open with his fans about his journey and using his music to connect.  Growing up right outside of Chattanooga, Tennesee, Stansell recalls his entire family listening to country music.  At the age of six, his mother and sister surprised him with tickets to see Reba McEntire, a night that he says changed everything.  “It was one of the first shows I ever saw, it was one of those moments where I was like ‘Yup, this is what I want to do’.”  Shortly after that, his parents brought him to Nashville and he was one of the children who performed at Opryland.  It’s where he cut his teeth as a performer, learning to sing and dance and spent his childhood around very talented people who all loved country music.  “I was six when I did my first show, it was on the Opry stage so I joke about telling people that my first paid gig was at the Opry house then I’ve spent the rest of my adult life just clawing and scraping to get back to that circle,” he laughs.

Graduating Belmont University in Nashville in 2009, he pursued his music career in Nashville for a few years, but never quite felt like he found his voice.  After a brief stint in New York City, he moved out to the West Coast where he now resides.  It took him leaving Nashville and experiencing the hustle and bustle of New York City to finally start writing his own music and find his songwriter’s voice.

As a songwriter, he has decided that writing about what is going on in his life, or things that are personal to him has really allowed him to come into his own and hone his craft. “I have a strict philosophy that you have to write what you know and up until now, it’s been working for me.”  His most recent single, “Slow Down” features Ty Herndon, an artist that Stansell lived next to in Nashville and became friends with. “I grew up listening to him, he just has one of those quintessential country voices and he definitely made my record better and I am really proud to have him on there, it was one of those unforgettable moments,” he recalls.
Brandon Stansell

Ty Herndon (L) Brandon Stansell (R)Rick Diamond/Getty Images for The 2018 Concert for Love & Acceptance

A big part of Stansell’s personal journey is his coming out story, which he explains to us as something he always is sure to talk about during his live shows.  “It was actually really painful and difficult and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but fast forward a decade from there those experiences have really shaped me into the person that I am and that’s a person that I am deeply proud of,” he tells us.  “I just don’t know that I would be the person or be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have to go through what I went through to get me here.”  Blending artistry and advocacy is what he strives to do with his career, participating in festivals across the country and even playing at the Concert for Love and Acceptance hosted by CMT’s Cody Alan earlier this summer during CMAfest.

I feel like music has been for me, as an independent artist, has been a vehicle where I’ve been able to talk to people especially in the south that I was in years ago, that are having struggles and I have been able to connect with them,” he explains.  “In those exchanges I feel that there is a sentiment that we are not that alone even though we may feel it at times, and it’s an easy thing to feel when you are LGBT in the South and have a conservative or religious family that doesn’t understand you or support you and can’t find a way around their religion to love you in the place where you are.”  Using his platform he is proud to talk about his experiences and to try and help others going through similar things.

His next single, “For You” is available now, take a listen below and be sure to follow Brandon on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight: Spinn

Spinn

The ladies of Spinn, twins Stephanie and Cheryl Lynn Spinner have been interested in music since they were in the second grade, learning to play piano and both participating in the church choir.  Growing up in New Jersey, they recall in a recent interview with New York Country Swag that there was always music playing in the house, but it was a rare occasion when their parents would agree on the genre.  Their father although he grew up in New York City, loved country music while their mother loved rock n roll.   “In the house, we would have Bruce Springsteen and Heart then Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and they always battled, music was always playing, but they couldn’t stand each other’s music it was kind of funny,” they explained. They took their first family trip to Nashville when the girls were twelve years old, attending a show at The Ryman, which only solidified their love for the genre.

The duo went to college originally in pursuit of a music business degree, to learn the ins and outs of the industry, then one of their professors told them they were crazy for not pursuing their career as singers instead.  “Having taken those classes in the music business, it helped us understand and guide our career and the failures were more rational, we understand that it is a business and things don’t always go the way you think they are going to,” they tell us.  “It’s not a no forever, it’s just a no for right now.”  They started to play shows when they were in college, eventually leading them to stages in New York like Rockwood Music Hall. They can recall when Nash FM 94.7 hit the New York City airwaves and how that was a game changer for them.  “Nash FM changed our lives, now with the resurgence of country music and finally having a station, it changed everything,” they explain.  The duo went on to compete in Nash’s regional Nash Next competition, beating out 750 other bands or artists and coming in first place.  This then allowed them the opportunity to head to Nashville, compete in their competition then hit the road with all of the finalists. “It was so much fun, the entire thing start to finish,” they explained. “We signed up to push fan engagement since we were about to release a music video. We had people voting, we got to do the live show, we won and it was the craziest thing in the entire world to be able to represent New York City and have that be your stamp “country duo from New York City”.”

Since then the duo has opened for LANco, Kalie Shorr, Drew Baldridge and Trent Harmon and in each instance they take everything in like sponges, absorbing every aspect of the artists’ live show. “We watch everyone and we try to take away what the best things they do at their meet and greets, how they interact on stage. For us, it is a blessing to be able to play in front of their fans and we enjoy bringing our fans to see incredible artists,” they tell us.

Spinn’s latest single, “Crazy For You” was written on a whim at 5:30 in the morning, Stephanie explains.  “I had an epiphany and the first three lines of the chorus just popped in my head, I was feeling so lazy, I did not want to get out of my bed but I laid in my bed and sang it into my phone.”  After some rearranging and writing the rest of the song together, Cheryl and Stephanie had their next song.  “It’s about balance, it’s about the people in your life who balance us out, we are chaotic and all over the place but those people are so important to us and we think finding the balance between the chaos and enjoying the simple things is a really big part of life and keeping us moving forward and on track and something we are focusing on right now,” they tell us.

We discussed their decision to pursue their career in New York instead of moving to Nashville and they explained that their families are here and that they are able to express a different narrative growing up here. “We love country music, but our experience and our journey in life is different than someone who grew up in the south, or anywhere else in the country,” they say.  “Our families and friends are here and they are the ones that shape us and support, our roots are something we hold very dear to us.”  They talk about the family of country music artists that are all making their dreams come true from the North East including Lauren Davidson, Carolyn Miller, and Tommy Cole. “We love Nashville, but this is home for us and for us to be able to experience what we can here, its something we have fought so hard to be able to do what we do here,” they explain.

Looking forward, Spinn is excited to release another EP this fall and plan a tour that will hit the northeast.  Be sure to be following the ladies of Spinn on their social media channels, Instagram,  Twitter,  and Facebook, for all announcements and upcoming releases.

 

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Haley Mae Campbell

NYCS Swag Spotlight: Haley Mae Campbell

Haley Mae Campbell

Photo Credit: R. Katheryn Photography

Although born in Long Island, NY singer-songwriter Haley Mae Campbell moved to South Carolina when she was just a few months old and explains in a recent phone conversation that she didn’t listen to country music until she was in her teen years. Starting her career in a non-singing role as Abu the Monkey in Aladdin when she was only 10 years old, Campbell was bitten by the performance bug. Her parents bought her a guitar when she was 13-years-old and she explains it all spiraled from there.

“I remember I heard this song, ‘Somewhere With You’ by Kenny Chesney and I just thought that was the most amazing song I’ve ever heard,” she recalls. Growing up, she listened to a variety of genres thanks to her dad, who was the family DJ, including The B-52’s, The Who, and a bunch of 80’s rock.  She was also exposed to rockabilly early on, The Old 97’s being one of her favorite bands from a young age, she explains that she recently was on the bill on an outlaw country cruise where they were the headliner. “It was a childhood dream come true because I grew up idolizing them, because my parents did, so it was a pretty full circle moment to hang out with them as an artist.”

After graduating high school a year early and convincing her parents that she was going to pursue her music career, Campbell made the move to Nashville last August. At just 19-years-old she has already made amazing connections in the industry and has had incredible opportunities.  Back in Charleston at the local radio station, she opened for artists such as Sheryl Crow, Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, and Lauren Alaina, watching them and being able to learn from them.  “It’s not only about being talented or original but at the end of the day, you have to be great to work with to be successful and stay grounded and appreciate the people that are around you,” she tells us of what she has taken away from those opening slots.

Her latest release, Lovers Lottery is a good representation of the music she has been inspired to create since her move to Nashville. Four of the songs are solo writes while she tried something different on two of them, co-writing.  “It was scary at first, but now I love it. It’s kind of like going on a blind date when you are writing with someone new for the first time, it can be very awkward or it can be the best thing ever so you just have to take your chances most of the time,” she says.  The band that plays her live gigs with her are also the musicians on the new project, giving the EP a very natural and authentic vibe.  “I really felt like it was the best representation of the songs and the way we play them live which was my goal.  I really think it shows people who I am as an artist.”

“I think it’s just persistence, I am very determined and when I really, really want something I’ll do anything to get it,” Campbell says.  It’s a matter of being strong and positive and building those relationships and eventually, I was able to get those opportunities along the way.”  Follow Haley Mae Campbell on her social media channels including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

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NYCS Swag Spotlight: Trent Harmon

Trent Harmon

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

Trent Harmon was catapulted into the spotlight after auditioning and winning the final season of American Idol on Fox. His charm, incredible skill to connect to songs, and ability to be a true storyteller are what gave him an edge over other finalists.  Now, two years later he has honed his songwriting craft and with the guidance of a major label, Big Machine, has released his debut album, You Got ‘Em All.

Looking back at his childhood, Harmon tells New York Country Swag about growing up in rural Mississippi. “I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to do music, quite honestly, it’s a cliche story, but nobody from my neck of the woods really makes it out of that neck of the woods,” he says.  “I was twelve when I bought my first guitar at a pawn shop.  It took me several years before I could play it.  Then, I started writing songs, too”

Harmon’s parents owned a small steakhouse near their home and growing up working there was a part of everyday life.  When he realized his talents were better served entertaining the customers rather than cleaning up after them, he started singing and taking requests.  “I didn’t realize it then, but I was getting my chops as a performer, those were my first gigs. I quit waiting and cleaning tables, I started playing songs and played for a crowd,” he recalls.  Almost all of the songs that were requested were from the country music genre, but Harmon wasn’t only a fan of country music, he listened to southern rock and was a huge fan of Elvis Presley.

After playing gigs in Memphis, Nashville and Little Rock, he had all but exhausted his options during a six or seven year period.  Running out of money, he decided to take a chance and audition for American Idol. During the toughest week of the contestants journey, Hollywood Week, Harmon suffered through mono to impress the judges and went on to win the entire competition.

He explains that although the industry sometimes regards the winners of national singing competitions as making it easy, he explained that he had to fight through those ceilings to get where he is now.  “Idol showcased one of the main reasons I started doing this, I do consider it a job, it’s how I pay my bills, I take it very seriously,” he tells us. “There might be a weird stigma that you do win Idol and ‘Are they really a musician or are they a reality TV person.’ He took time off after his big win to really focus on writing music, writing a song a day for two years and deciding what he wanted to say with his music.

The title track from his debut album was written in less than an hour, Harmon tells us.  After calling his girlfriend and giving her the great news that his label was ready to release his first single to radio, she gave him the news that she would be moving to Thailand to follow her dream of teaching.  After that devastating phone call, he sat down in a co-write with Justin Ebach and Jordan Minton.  He almost canceled that day but decided to keep the session, and luckily poured out his heart into one of his most personal songs yet. “It was a good day to not cancel,” he laughs, “Let that be the title of your piece.”

Back in February, New York Country Swag caught Harmon when he performed at the Big Machine Luncheon during Country Radio Seminar where he performed “You Got ‘Em All” for radio executives and people who work in the music industry.  “I had one job that day and that was to solidify myself a slot for the next year as a relevant up-and-coming artist in the country format,” he recalls.  He did just that, singing the next single from his forthcoming album and the full room of people, who are not easily impressed, stood up and cheered when he finished.  “When they stood up and I got the standing ovation and everyone clapped, that was one of those moments, that was arguably as big for me as winning the show that night, it was a different kind of win. It’s validation that you are doing something right.  It was the right song, the right time, and the right people to hear it at that moment.” He tells us,  “It was like all of the stars aligned.”

Focusing his energy and songwriting into his debut album, Harmon explains that you never know as an artist if you will get a chance to put out a second album, so he wanted to fill the first full-length with songs and stories dedicated to the people who have helped him get where he is today. “I made a list of the people who were instrumental in getting me to this point and I tried to write a song to each of those people and if it was good enough it made the album,” Harmon tells us. It is a compilation of gratitude to his family, friends, and fans who have lifted him to this point in his career.

Heading out on tour this summer with Rascal Flatts and Dan + Shay, Harmon is looking forward to seeing a bunch of his fans who are nicknamed “The Harmonies” as well as making new fans. For his full tour schedule head to www.trentharmon.com and be sure to continue to follow his journey on social media Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

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NYCS Swag Spotlight: Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell

Photo Credit: Kelly Marie Photography

Blending traditional country with a modern twist, Craig Campbell is our next Swag Spotlight.  Growing up in Lyons, Georgia, he was a country music fan from a very young age, even winning a singing contest when he was fifteen years old.  “That’s when I realized I really loved being on stage, and so fast forward a few years I graduated high school, I worked a few years as a correctional officer then I put a band together and we played nationally at bars and honkey tonks,” he tells us. His influences that have shaped his sound include 90’s country, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, Tracy Lawrence, and Brooks and Dunn which is what his brother would always play in the car on their way to school.  “I think the early 90s was the best era of country music,” he laughs.

After playing in a band for two and a half years, Campbell decided to make the move to Nashville to further pursue his career, singing demos for other songwriters, playing on lower Broadway and even playing piano for artists on tour including Luke Bryan. Fast forward to last summer, Campbell was invited to be an opener on Luke Bryan’s tour.  “It was great, being able to say I was in his band and then to fast forward and then get to open his shows, it was pretty cool and being able to go out on that big tour with one of my buddies was even more special,” he tells us.  “I watched every show and learned that the bottom line is when people pay to come see you play, they just want to have a good time and no matter what it takes, it’s up to the artist to be an entertainer and make it happen and I took it to heart.”

Campbell has had success over the years by releasing songs to country radio and is gearing up to release his next EP this Friday, June 8th.  The EP will feature two versions of the heartfelt “Outskirts of Heaven” as well as his latest single, the flirtatious “See You Try”.  After his record label played the song which was written by James McNair, Bart Butler, Jordan Schmidt, and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Campbell knew it was a great song and wanted to quickly record it before any other artists had a chance to get their hands on it.

As if releasing his new EP this week isn’t exciting enough, Campbell is hosting the 6th Annual Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge in Nashville during CMAFest. The annual event has raised over $300,000 for FIGHT CRC (Fight Colorectal Cancer), a nonprofit organization working to increase awareness, education, and research on colorectal cancer – the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among adults in the U.S.  The cause is close to Campbell’s heart who lost his father to the disease when he was just eleven years old.

The all-star lineup for the challenge this year includes Russell Dickerson, Lindsay Ell, Walker Hayes, Brett Kissell, Nascar driver Scott Lagasse Jr, LOCASH’s Chris Lucas and Preston Brust, Jerrod Niemann, Taylor Phillips, Dee Jay Silver, Tegan Marie, The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and Kelby Ray and Brett Young.  “It all started when I got my own platform if you will, I wanted to do something I guess looking around there were a lot of free shows to raise money, golf tournaments, and fishing tournaments and nobody was doing a corn hole tournament and everyone loves cornhole and it is a game that everybody can play so I felt like doing this tournament to raise money for colon cancer was perfect,” he tells us about the decision to co-host the event.  Each artist will be teamed up with a fan who won an online auction to attend the event, all of the proceeds benefitting FIGHT CRC.

For more information about the event or to learn more about Craig Campbell, head to his website here. Be sure to follow Craig on all of his social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Subscribe to our Weekly Round-Up here 
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